Holidays are a time for family tradition, when everyone comes together and everything feels easy and just right… Well, at least the kids usually see it that way even if you are feeling a bit of stress. Divorce proceedings may take a break on Christmas Eve, but children with divorcing parents do not always see it that way. The first major holiday during a divorce can be tough for children who see the holidays as a time of happiness and have spent every day of their lives with both parents. So as you carefully hang the stockings by the chimney and the smell of hot chocolate wafts through the air, you can do some planning to ensure a happy and joy-filled holiday for you and your children. We will look at some super creative ways to celebrate that have worked well for others – all so you can make this the best holiday yet by putting the focus back on the holidays for your children.
1. Although most parents put their children first in their lives, the holidays are a good time to give extra effort to that goal. Focus on the kids’ needs and put aside any unresolved issues or problems in the divorce.
2. Co-parenting is another way to make the first holiday apart easier for children. When one parent cannot be there, the other can create some unity by scheduling phone time in a separate room for the child and their unavailable mom or dad. Another suggestion is to help the child remember the parent who cannot be present by helping them make or find a gift to give them when they reunite. Even though it may be difficult, it is important to remember that while the husband-wife relationship will come to an end, the parent-child one does not.
3. Another way to keep the focus on the holidays is to plan ahead to avoid any complications that could arise from miscommunications. Keep to the schedule that you decide by arriving on time and only altering a plan in the event of an emergency. If your parenting plan does not establish timeframes for the holidays, this is the place to start. Knowing which days and at what times you will have the kids will allow you to schedule events, buy tickets, and make plans. As you collaborate with your former spouse to create a holiday schedule, remember it isn’t the actual date your children will remember; it is the memory of being together. Be as flexible as possible and focus on creating the best overall experience for your children.
4. Create a Gingerbread Family Cookie Kit. Decorating gingerbread houses is a time-honored Christmas tradition for many families. While you transition into life after divorce, consider decorating a Family of Gingerbread people and talk with your children about how no matter where you live or when you celebrate together – you are still a family. Have them share how they decided to decorate Mom and Dad.
5. Have a Holiday Movie Marathon. Have your children pick their favorite holiday movies, make some hot cocoa, grab your favorite holiday snacks, and enjoy! A holiday tradition doesn’t have to be something grand to be special and create lifelong memories. Your children will remember laughing with you cuddled up on the couch while watching fun holiday movies. What matters is being together during this time.
6. Create new holiday ornaments. The best holiday ornaments are the ones with special meaning. Have your children create new holiday ornaments or decorations this year. An online search can give you plenty of ideas for simple crafts or printables you can use to begin a new holiday tradition.
7. Bundle up and take a holiday walk outside. Whether it’s going to the zoo or the Botanical Garden or a county park, share this time with your children and take in some fresh air while looking at lots of holiday lights and inflatables.
8. Let go of perceived ‘holiday rules’ and know that whatever works for you and your kids is best. If one parent loves Christmas Eve and the other loves Christmas Day, there is no need to rotate. There is nothing wrong with one parent always having the children on the 24th and the other having them on the 25th if that works for your family.
9. Ideally, you and your former spouse can agree to spend Christmas Eve or Christmas Day together without arguing. If you and your former spouse get along, you will be giving your children the best Christmas present possible. Take the first step by inviting your former spouse to join you and the children, for their sake. Of course, this is easier for some families than others; however, even if you and your former spouse don’t get along, keep it cordial and light for your children.
10. Your children may want to hang out with their friends instead of you. Maybe that’s their way to avoid dealing with the post-divorce Christmas drama. Give your children the option of inviting some friends to dinner or planning time with friends during their time with you. They need to go on with their lives too.
11. Let your children express their concerns without fear of upsetting you or their other parent. Your children need to know their opinions will always be welcomed no matter what they say. If they feel sad, irritated, or depressed, they need to trust that you will not force holiday joy upon them until they are ready to celebrate. Show your children that you understand how they are feeling and that it is okay.
12. When parents divorce, children often feel lost in their new reality. Consider giving your children some control over how to spend the Christmas holidays. Let them decide little details like who’s sitting next to whom at the table, or to help with the Christmas decorations and even help you cook. Make your children feel in charge of how they can celebrate the holiday.
13. Just act normal. Ask your family and friends to act normal too and be relaxed. No one needs to express pity for the kids or disdain for your former spouse. No matter how badly your friends and family may dislike the children’s other parent, he’s their parent and they love him. Tell everyone to stop talking bad about your former spouse.
Your divorce should not keep your children from properly embracing the spirit of the season. Have a happy and healthy holiday season.
Should you need the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney in Creve Coeur and O’Fallon or have questions about your divorce situation, know that we are here to help and ready to discuss those questions with you.